Friday, February 28, 2014

Coming up in Wednesday's ShopTalk

Could Bitcoin work for your small business? Plus, tips for working at home, and your responses to our question of the week contest:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Enter the Bitcoin debate: Love it? Hate it? Don't care?

The debate over Bitcoin rages on, particularly in light of the sudden disappearance of one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges. We want to know how the cryptocurrency is playing out locally.

If you're an entrepreneur who accepts Bitcoin, or a consumer who has used it to pay for goods or services, drop us a quick line with your thoughts. Click here

Red Sky Gallery has officially closed

After 12 years as a mainstay in the Charlotte art scene, RedSky Gallery in Elizabeth has officially closed, owner Kellie Scott said Tuesday. 

The gallery, located at 1523 Elizabeth Avenue, offered paintings, jewelry, fine crafts and ceramics at a variety of price points. But a combination of weakened demand in the wake of the financial crisis, the rise of Internet art sales and a shift in their customer base made for it hard to stay afloat, Scott said. 

"A lot of (our customers) are aging out, downsizing, busy getting rid of second homes," Scott said. "So they're past the time of building (an art collection) up. And their children aren't interested in art." 

 But Scott said she's seen an outpouring of community support since she emailed customers in January to tell them RedSky was closing. The movers come on Thursday, she said. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Does your biz need an I.T. whiz? Check this out.

If you're on the hunt for an I.T. whiz, consider the COME TECH OUT Charlotte Job Fair to promote regional job openings in the tech industry from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Friday at Central Piedmont Community College's Levine Campus in Matthews, 2800 Campus Ridge Road. 

The North Carolina Technology Association has partnered with Business Innovation Growth (BIG), the Charlotte Chamber, Charlotte Works, the CPCC Computer Technology Institute and IT-oLogy to host the event. 
More than 300 job-seekers of all levels of expertise are expected to be there. 
Click here for directions.
To register as an employer, click here. Participating employers get: 
  • A job fair booth, including one table, two chairs, power, WiFi access, admission for two company representatives, use of interview area and refreshments. 
  • Ability to participate in the virtual job fair. Jobs will be tweeted and can be followed virtually. 
  • Company recognition online and in print as a job fair participant. Inclusion in press releases and promotional materials. 
Booth rates are the following: 
  • $500 for companies with fewer than 100 employees in North Carolina
  • $750 for companies with 100 employees or more in North Carolina
  • $1,000 for staffing and recruiting firms. (Third party recruiters may not attend unless their company is registered as a participating employer.)

To register as a job-seeker, click here. It's free to attend but registration is required. 
CPCC’s Computer Technology Institute will host a complimentary workshop for registered job seekers, titled “Road map to IT Careers,” that will focus on hot jobs in I.T. and what job seekers can do to get the skills desired by today’s employers.

Want to sponsor the event? Visit the sponsor menu.
 To learn more, contact Alison Gordon at 919-890-0775 or 

How can the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library help my small business?

In this video, Mimi Curlee with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library explains the resources and materials available to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses:

Friday, February 21, 2014

VIDEO: Here's what's coming up in Wednesday's ShopTalk

Watch this preview of the Feb. 26 edition of ShopTalk, where you'll read about Gastonia's Wardrobe Btq., an online monogram-shop operation, which started off the year making a bold promise to customers.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Charlotte ranks No. 14 in best cities for female entrepreneurs

Charlotte beat out Chicago and Miami to take No. 14 in a recent study of the top U.S. cities for female entrepreneurs, according to financial literacy site NerdWallet. 

Washington D.C. (No. 1) San Francisco, Seattle and Minneapolis and Portland made up the top-5, and Raleigh came in at No. 11 spot.  

The list, which ranked Charlotte as 14th, weighed the following: number of businesses per 100 residents, the percentage of businesses owned by women, the median earnings for full-time female works, the percentage of residents 25 years and older with a bachelor's degree or higher, and the unemployment rate. 

For the full list, click here. 

According to the study, 31.1 percent of businesses in Charlotte are female owned, median earnings for full-time female workers is $37,427, and 40.3 percent of residents over 25 years old have at least a bachelor's degree. 

Quoting the National Association of Women Business Owners, NerdWallet said the number of women-owned business firms in the U.S. grew by 59 percent between 1997 and 2013. And today, female entrepreneurs run more than 8.6 million businesses in the country, generating more than $1.3 trillion in total revenues. 

Check out NerdWallet's infographic (click here if it's not big enough) to see the Top-10 list, as well as info on the sectors with the highest concentration of women-owned firms. Healthcare and social assistance was the top sector. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Meet Entrepreneur Barbie, Mattel's latest

Mattel's latest Barbie does more than ride in a convertible and lounge in a bikini. This gal runs her own business. Meet, Entrepreneur Barbie -- a chic briefcase-toting, shift-dress-wearing, smartphone-wielding and tablet-surfing career girl, the newest doll in the company's "I Can Be" career line. She'll take her spot beside other careerists such as Doctor Barbie, Actress Barbie, Teacher Barbie and Ice-Skater Barbie. (Perfect timing, eh?)

Mattel's new Entrepreneur Barbie 

The grand unveiling was at the American International Toy Fair in New York which opened over the weekend.

A spokeswoman for the Fortune 500 company said it's the first time in Barbie's 55-year history that she has taken on this role, CNN reports.

"In all likelihood, she's been an entrepreneur before," writes Entrepreneur Magazine editor Linda Lacina. "With playsets like travel agencies, fashion ateliers and even a McDonald's dotting the collection of the years, one would hope she ran those operations and wasn't just a worker bee."

Local startups unfazed by Kickstarter hacking

And so the corporate hacking continues. But crowdfunding giant Kickstarter's "security breach" announcement Sunday didn't draw the same degree of ire as Target's data fiasco.
At least not in some Charlotte entrepreneurial circles. The main reason for that is the nature of the crime. In Kickstarter's case, no credit card data was stolen. 
What was accessed: usernames, email addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers and encrypted passwords, said Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler, in a statement
"Actual passwords were not revealed," Strickler said, "however it is possible for a malicious person with enough computing power to guess and crack an encrypted password, particularly a weak or obvious one. ...There is no evidence of unauthorized activity of any kind on all but two Kickstarter user accounts." (Nevertheless, Kickstarter said they replied to a whopping 5,000 inquiries in 24 hours.) 
Taylor Hayden, a Charlotte business adviser and corporate lawyer with Boost Business and Legal Advisors, used Kickstarter to raise more than $40,000 to fund his WineShark product, a red-wine aerator designed to be used in the glass. 
And though he didn't turn to Kickstarter for his latest entrepreneurial endeavor -- an indoor gun range and retail shop set to open on Wilkinson Boulevard in September -- he's still supportive of the fundraising site and would consider using it again in the future. He's also glad the site doesn't require the same amount of data some companies do. 
"When you sign up for Kickstarter, you don't even have to use your real name," Hayden said. "A lot of my backers are just fake screen names." 
Amazon's secure-payments website handles the usernames real information, including credit card numbers, he said.
 Uptown startup hub founder Dan Roselli said, in an email Monday, that he hadn't heard many grumblings. And that though Kickstarter should take this breach very seriously, he's not going to stop supporting the popular crowdfunding tool. (For more info on new crowdfunding legislation, click here.)  
 "I think people have to come to accept the unfortunate reality that hacking is now part of our daily existence and will continue into the future," Roselli said. 
In fact, Roselli said he even sees "entrepreneurial opportunity" in the mishap: "...Launch a security grading system for companies that is done by independent third parties," he said. "Think bond-rating system. Who has AAA rating and who is at junk bond security levels. There really is no way for consumers to know on their own."
Do you use Kickstarter? Then do this, the company urges: 

  • Change your password: Log in to your Kickstarter account and look for the banner at the top of the page to create a new, secure password. 
  • Use the same one on another site? Change it, too. (And reconsider duplicating passwords on multiple sites anyway.) For additional help with password security, Kickstarter recommend tools like1Password and LastPass.

Friday, February 14, 2014

3 tips for the telecommute

Entrepreneurs, here are some tips for the telecommute, courtesy of Brother, a company selling printers, scanners and label-makers. 

1. Get ready as if going to the office: Getting showered and dressed in the morning will help you prepare for the day both mentally and physically.  It also helps to designate an exclusive work space so that you can get in the zone and everyone in your house knows you mean business.

2. Use the cloud: Uploading documents allows co-workers to access them in a timely manner. It will also digitally save, store and recover files, if something were to happen to your home or network. 

3. Embrace mute: The last thing you want is your co-workers or colleagues to hear any possible distractions in your house, like the doorbell or screaming kids. You want people to think you are at the top of your game, no matter the circumstances, and the mute button can be an important ally to eliminate background noise.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Protect your small business from hackers

This week in ShopTalk, we highlight five things every small business should know about cybersecurity. Read it. It's worth a look, and our experts are Charlotte residents Theresa Payton and Ted Claypoole, whose book, "Privacy in the Age of Big Data" debuted in January, earning them a spot on Jon Stewart's Daily Show. 

Here's another way to learn more about cybersecurity: take an online course through the Small Business Administration. The course, available here, helps small business owners safeguard their information from computer attacks and determine their readiness against security breaches. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Amazon now collects sales tax in NC; retailers applaud

Amazon has now joined all other North Carolina retailers in collecting sales tax from their customers -- a move applauded by the N.C. Retail Merchants Association, a nonprofit trade organization with more than 25,000 member stores.  

"We aren’t against e-commerce -- far from it," the NCRMA said in a statement. "Retail businesses of all sizes also sell online. But online-only sellers should no longer be given special treatment. ...This is a tax that all consumers owe to the state on every purchase."

The NCRMA and other business groups have argued for years that giving special treatment to online-online retailers wasn't fair to brick-and-mortar retailers, which hire locally and pay property and income taxes. 

The Department of Revenue estimated in 2012 that the state was losing as much as $214 million in online sales taxes each year because of the loophole. 

Bloomberg reported that a top economist for the General Assembly said Amazon's decision could bring the state $20 million to $30 million more annually, while cities and counties could get $10 million to $13 million more. 

Amazon now collects sales tax from a total of 20 states. It does not collect sales tax in South Carolina.

The U.S. Senate passed The Marketplace Fairness Act in 2013 with bipartisan support, and it now resides in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

Amazon says no sales tax will be charged when purchasing gift cards. 

"The time for action is now, and Amazon’s decision to collect sales tax in North Carolina is one step closer to closing this loophole once and for all," the NCRMA said. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Bowl ad features murder, fire, sledgehammers: Craziest small biz stunt ever?

If you don't live in Savannah, Ga., you missed out on the wonderful spectacle that aired during the first local commercial break during last night's Super Bowl broadcast. Meet personal injury lawyer Jamie Casino, who produced a full two-minute commercial advertising his flair for justice, the underdog and vengeance.

It's a must-watch, and it shows that a sledgehammer of fire, Bible verse and tombstone can generate as much buzz as a commercial that pulls at your heart. (I'm looking at you, "Puppy Love" ad.)